The Spirit of the Sword
My spiritual life use to look a lot like Woodstock. You know, lots of peace, love, and good music. Eventually I figured out that I have an enemy. My enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) as he roams about seeking who he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). It was like a woke up out of some sort of drug induced euphoria to realize that I was laying down in the middle of a firefight. In a panic I thought to myself, We are at war! And I am going to die!
We are at war. However, we do not struggle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces (Eph 6:12). But here is the tricky part. Those spiritual forces use flesh and blood to do their bidding. We see this with the disciples. When Jesus was traveling toward Jerusalem He stopped in a village of Samaritans, but they would not receive Him. James and John were offended that these people would treat Jesus this way. So they asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to burn those Samaritans up. Jesus looked at James and John and rebuked them. Then He told them this, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of” (Luke 9:55).
Peter was once used by two different spirits in a matter of seconds. When Peter confessed that Jesus was “the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), Jesus told him “…flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (v. 17). Then moments later, probably still buzzing with confidence from the affirmation of Jesus, Peter rebukes Jesus for planning on getting killed. So Jesus tells him, “Get behind Me, Satan” (v.23). Same guy. Same conversation. Same head. Same heart. But two different spirits.
I wonder how quickly we give ourselves over to spirits, not realizing what spirit we are of. We tend to focus only on truth. In other words, if we are telling the truth, that is really all that matters. I have heard more than one red-faced preacher scream from the pulpit, “If it’s in the bible I’m going to preach it!” Each time they were speaking truth, but seemingly never realizing what spirit they were of. And more than once I have told someone like it is, not realizing what spirit I was of. Jesus said that true worshipers will worship in both spirit and truth (John 4:24). If I speak the truth with the wrong spirit it doesn’t make the truth untrue, it just makes my speaking a lie.
Malchus was the slave of the high priest. His name meant my king. He was submitted to an evil scheme. I suspect he did not know what spirit he was of when they came to arrest Jesus. But Peter knew what spirit was using Malchus, or at least he thought he did. Jesus was being threatened. If there was ever a time to stand for the truth, to fight for the truth, surely this was it. So Peter took out his sword and struck Malchus, cutting off his ear. But much to our surprise Jesus rebuked Peter, then healed Malchus’ ear.
We don’t have to worry about learning this particular lesson. Most of us have never even picked up a sword. I doubt we will ever have to decide whether or not to draw one in a fight. But there is one problem. According to Scripture we are in a fight, and we do have a sword:
And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Just because I know the truth doesn’t mean I can say it. The sword of truth, which is the word of God, is dangerous. I cannot walk around slinging it carelessly at people, anymore than my son can walk around slinging his sword at his sisters. The problem for us today is no different than the problem was for Peter. When we encounter Malchus, who is enslaved without knowing what spirit he is of, that same spirit tells us to fight for Jesus, defend Him. So, we start slinging our sword of truth, “If it’s in the bible I’m going to preach it!” Jesus still stands and rebukes us for this. Because the real consequence is that Malchus loses his ear. And once Malchus loses his ear he will NEVER hear the truth, lest Jesus heals him.
Be careful when you speak the truth. If you are speaking from the wrong spirit your sword is not the sword of the Spirit, but a weapon of the enemy. That is the kind of truth that chops off ears. Our problem is not that we have failed to use the sword of the Spirit. It is that we have failed to discern the spirit of the sword.